Archive for July, 2009

Lonesome George may have lead in pencil after all

Who’d a thought?

How to deal with conspiracy theories

You can either reason with the people who push them, or…

I never wanted to blog about football…

…but this? Getafe’s new home kit, sponsored by Burger King. Comes with instructions.




More cut and paste

The Total Perspective Vortex


Part three of my rant and here’s blogging made easy. When somebody cleverer and funnier than you has made the point far better than you already, why not cut and paste?

The Universe, as has been observed before, is an unsettlingly big place, a fact which for the sake of a quiet life most people tend to ignore.

Many would happily move to somewhere rather smaller of their own devising, and this is what most beings in fact do.

For instance, in one corner of the Eastern Galactic Arm lies the large forest planet Oglaroon, the entire “intelligent” population of which lives permanently in one fairly small and crowded nut tree. In which tree they are born, live, fall in love, carve tiny speculative articles in the bark on the meaning of life, the futility of death and the importance of birth control, fight a few extremely minor wars, and eventually die strapped to the underside of some of the less accessible outer branches.

In fact the only Oglaroonians who ever leave their tree are those who are hurled out of it for the heinous crime of wondering whether any of the other trees might be capable of supporting life at all, or indeed whether the other trees are anything other than illusions brought on by eating too many Oglanuts.

Exotic though this behaviour may seem, there is no life form in the Galaxy which is not in some way guilty of the same thing, which is why the Total Perspective Vortex is as horrific as it is.

For when you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it a tiny little marker, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, which says “You are here.”

The Total Perspective Vortex derives its picture of the whole Universe on the principle of extrapolated matter analyses. To explain–since every piece of matter in the Universe is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the Universe, it is in theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation–every sun, every planet, their orbits, their composition, and their economic and social history from, say, one small piece of fairy cake.

The man who invented the Total Perspective Vortex did so basically in order to annoy his wife.

Trin Tragula–for that was his name–was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.

And she would nag him incessantly about the utterly inordinate amount of time he spent staring out into space, or mulling over the mechanics of safety pins, or doing spectrographic analyses of pieces of fairy cake.

“Have some sense of proportion!” she would say, sometimes as often as thirty-eight times in a single day.

And so he built the Total Perspective Vortex–just to show her.

And into one end, he plugged the whole of reality as extrapolated from a piece of fairy cake, and into the other, he plugged his wife: so that when he turned it on she saw in one instant the whole infinity of creation and herself in relation to it.

To Trin Tragula’s horror, the shock completely annihilated her brain, but to his satisfaction he realized that he had proved conclusively that if life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion.

… from The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The medicalisation of dissatisfaction


It’s an ugly phrase in some ways, but it is one that says it all. Not mine either, somebody from the Work Foundation used it when I was talking to him on the subject of stress.  

We have lost a great deal of perspective on how the world really works. We increasingly fall under the influence of consultants, certain professions, quacks, con men and snake oil salesmen who have a vested interest of one sort or another in medicalising how we feel.

The latest perfectly normal human emotion to be the subject of this medicalisation is bitterness.  The emotion roots itself in those moments when we discover (yet again) that sometimes life isn’t fair after all. We may not be pleased with that knowledge but we may as well get bitter about the fact that the grass is the wrong shade of green. There’s little or nothing we can do to change anything, except for our response.

This provokes an old fart response in me that I’m not entirely comfortable with. Surely you learn as a child and then throughout your life that bad things happen to good people (and vice versa)? Surely you learn that shit happens for no reason? And surely you learn that you can only be upset or angry for so long before those negative feelings start to turn in on you?

I know we like to think we’re worth it. Thanks L’Oreal. But life just isn’t fair a lot of the time. The idea that we need to treat people who may not accept that inconvenient truth is absurd.

Tomorrow: The Total Perspective Vortex

Picking over Michael’s Bones


One of my least favourite people in the world is a woman you’ve almost certainly never heard of called Carole Spiers, stress  consultant, misery leech, media whore, ghoul. My problem with her is partly irrational because  – of course – I don’t know her apart from her public pronouncements and slightly disturbing manner, as defined by the equation:

(Patricia Hewitt x Margaret Thatcher) + Edwina Currie = Carole Spiers

Here she is, pushing some piece of crap that is supposed to measure stress levels.

But partly my distaste for her is rational because she is to me the public face of the burgeoning stress management industry. An industry that is largely reliant on giving people the idea that they suffer from the very thing it purports to cure.

In her latest attempts to link stress to just about everything, Carole Spiers has decided it’s a good idea to pick over the already well-gnawed bones of Michael Jackson. You can read what she thinks about it here.

 If you can’t be bothered, it’s a vacuous load of regurgitated drivel about his dissatisfaction with himself and his situation, terminating in this envelope-pushing paragraph of sentimental, misdirected, self-serving spew.

‘Perhaps the biggest irony was that the death of Michael Jackson, King of Pop, and object of admiration for many generations, could be seen as that of a disaffected employee, wanting to score points off a hostile management by slipping away and relishing the freedom of that enchanted world on the other side of the factory-gate.’

July 2009

Desk Jockey